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Mornings with Carl Grapentine
Weekdays from 6:00 am-10:00 am
Keeping up with Carl Grapentine is a little like “Where’s Waldo.” Some people know him as a church musician. Others catch his pre-performance lectures at Symphony Center and Lyric Opera. Still others hear him calling plays for 100,000 football fans at Michigan Stadium. Each day, it’s Carl’s joie de vivre that lights up The Morning Program on WFMT. He’ll report the headlines, what the weather’s doing, and who won the big game (including the winning team’s fight song), and – of course – he’ll play Bach. In short, The Morning Program with Carl Grapentine is as essential to Chicago as that first cup of coffee.
Carl's Morning Program Quiz
Monday, March 30
Tomorrow is the birthday of Franz Josef Haydn and we will have an appropriate celebration. But tomorrow is also an interesting birthday/anniversary. It’s the anniversary of the opening of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s first big Broadway hit, Oklahoma! And it’s the birthday of the woman who starred in the 1955 film version of that musical. She was born March 31, 1934. Who is she?
Answer: Shirley Jones
Friday, March 27
Today is the birthday of the Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, born in 1927. He died in 2007. When he became music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C. in 1977, his friend Leonard Bernstein wrote an overture for the occasion. What is the name of that composition by Bernstein?
Thursday, March 26
Today is the 90th birthday of composer, conductor, pianist, and writer, Pierre Boulez. As a conductor he served as musical advisor to the Cleveland Orchestra, chief conductor of the BBC Philharmonic, music director of the New York Philharmonic and, later, as principal guest conductor of the CSO where he is now conductor emeritus. In 1976 he founded a chamber orchestra in Paris devoted to new music. What is the name of this group?
Answer: Ensemble InterContemporain
Wednesday, March 25
Conductor Arturo Toscanini was born on this date in 1867 in Parma, Italy. One of the most acclaimed conductors of the 20th century, his conducting career began unexpectedly in 1886 in Rio de Janeiro. The 19-year old Toscanini was a member of the cello section of a touring opera company. When the local conductor walked out and a substitute conductor proved unworthy, the young Toscanini was persuaded to leave his chair in the cello section and lead the rest of the performance. What was the opera he conducted on that occasion?
Answer: Verdi’s Aida
Tuesday, March 24
Claude Debussy’s early orchestral masterpiece Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun was composed between 1891 and 1894. A lyrical and atmospheric poem was the inspiration for this work. What French poet wrote a poem with the same title?
Answer: Stephane Mallarme
Monday, March 23
Last week we celebrated the birthday of the Russian composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, including a classic CSO recording of his Scheherazade, The Tales of a 1001 Nights. There is also a song cycle with the title Scheherazade. Who composed that song cycle?
Answer: Maurice Ravel
Friday, March 20
Spring arrives this afternoon! The vernal equinox will occur at 5:45 PM, Central Time. Botticelli’s painting La Primavera [The Springtime] is depicted in what 20th century composition?
Answer: Respighi’s Botticelli Triptych
Thursday, March 19
On this last day of winter (!) we recall a piece of music from three months ago. The aria Must the winter come so soon? is from an opera by American composer Samuel Barber. Name the opera.
Wednesday, March 18
James Conlon, music director of the Ravinia Festival, turns 65 today. He was born in New York, March 18, 1950. In this coming season at Ravinia, his last as music director, what complete opera is he conducting in concert format?
Answer: Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman on August 15
Tuesday, March 17
It’s the day for the wearin’ of the green—St. Patrick’s Day. And we’re celebrating with Irish music and musicians. In the 1970s, a first-chair player in the Berlin Philharmonic was an Irishman. Who was he?
Answer: James Galway, flute
Monday, March 16
Lerner and Loewe’s most popular musical, My Fair Lady, opened on yesterday’s date, March 15, 1956. The original production ran for more than six years—setting what was then a record for the longest-running Broadway show. The original cast starred Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews, and Stanley Holloway. Name the play and the author on which My Fair Lady is based.
Answer: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Friday, March 13
Tomorrow is the 130th anniversary of the first performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, March 14, 1885 at the Savoy Theatre in London. It has become the most performed of all the G&S operettas. The Mikado, Nanki-Poo, Ko-Ko, Poo-bah, and Yum-Yum all live in what fictitious town?
Thursday, March 12
Who am I? I was born 125 years ago today—March 12, 1890 in what is now Ukraine. At the age of 9, I was accepted at the Imperial Ballet School and I became one of the great ballet dancers in history. I joined Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes in 1909 and also began to choreograph. Some of my more famous creations include: The Afternoon of a Faun, Jeux, and Le Sacre du Printemps. Who am I?
Answer: Vaslav Nijinsky
Wednesday, March 11
In a letter to his patron, Nadejda von Meck, Tchaikovsky wrote the following: “To hear [his] music is to feel one has accomplished some good deed. It is difficult to say precisely wherein this good influence lies, but undoubtedly it is beneficial. The long I live and the better I know him, the more I love his music.” Of whom was he speaking?
Tuesday, March 10
Who am I? I was born 100 years ago today in London. After conducting various orchestras and working for the BBC, I spent a decade as conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. My best known post was as music director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic beginning in 1963. From 1967 until my death I was associate conductor of the Royal Philharmonic and I was one of the regular conductor for the Last Night of the Proms. Who am I?
Answer: Sir Charls Groves
Monday, March 9
Name the piece of music. It was composed in 1936. Originally a piece of chamber music, it is also well-known in a version for a larger orchestra. It was first performed in 1938 conducted by Arturo Toscanini. Thirty years later the composer made a choral version of the same music, setting the text Agnus Dei. Name the composer and the composition.
Answer: Samuel Barber Adagio for Strings—or String Quartet
Friday, March 6
Who am I? I was born on this date in 1930 in France but grew up in the U.S. I was a child prodigy as a conductor, guest-conducting the NBC Symphony at the age of 11. I made my violin debut at 15. I held many positions during my lifetime including Music Director of three American orchestras, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and the NY Philharmonic. I died last July at the age of 84. Who am I?
Answer: Lorin Maazel
Thursday, March 5
In Bizet’s opera The Pearl Fishers, two fishermen sing a famous duet expressing their love for a Brahmin princess, Leila. The opera takes place in what was then known as Ceylon. What is the current name of this country?
Answer: Sri Lanka
Wednesday, March 4
Today is the birthday of the City of Chicago, incorporated on March 4, 1837. A former mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak, was fatally wounded in Miami, Florida in 1933 during a failed assassination attempt on whom?
Answer: President Franklin Roosevelt
Tuesday, March 3
The opera Carmen by Georges Bizet had its first performance on this date, March 3, 1875 in Paris. The premiere at the Opera-Comique was not a success. And Bizet died suddenly three months later, never knowing of its world-wide success. In 1954, a film was made—based on a Broadway play—updating the story of Carmen to 1940s Chicago. What is the name of this adaptation?
Answer: Carmen Jones—starring Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge, and Pearl Bailey
Monday, March 2
Composer Kurt Weill was born on this date in 1900 and died at the age of 50. After studying with Ferrucio Busoni in Berlin, he taught theory and composition to Claudio Arrau and Maurice Abravanel. Turning to more popular music, his stage productions included The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny and The Seven Deadly Sins. His best known work, The Threepenny Opera, written with Bertolt Brecht, was a re-working of what work by the English author John Gay?
Answer: The Beggar's Opera
Friday, February 27
Soprano Mirella Freni was born in Modena, Italy on this date in 1935—she is 80 years old today. Another great opera star was born in that same town a little more than seven months later. Their mothers were friends and worked together. Who was the other great operatic star born in Modena in 1935?
Answer: Luciano Pavarotti
Thursday, February 26
The French poet, playwright and novelist, Victor Hugo, was born on this date in 1802. Hugo admired the music of Gluck, Weber, and Beethoven and was a personal friend of both Franz Liszt and Hector Berlioz. More than a thousand musical compositions were inspired by his writing including the operas Rigoletto, Ernani, and La Gioconda. One of the longest-running musical theater shows on Broadway and in London’s West End was based on a novel by Victor Hugo. Name it.
Answer: Les Miserables
Wednesday, February 25
The English writer Anthony Burgess was born on this date in 1917. In his novel A Clockwork Orange, the main character Alex undergoes an experimental behavior modification treatment to cure him of his tendency toward violence. But as an unintended consequence, he also develops an aversion to the music of his favorite composer. Who was Alex’s favorite composer?
Answer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Tuesday, February 24
A famous composition by Claudio Monteverdi had its premiere on this date, February 24, 1607 at the palace in Mantua. It is sometime referred to as being the first true opera. What is the name of this work?
Monday, February 23
George Frideric Handel was born on this date 330 years ago—February 23, 1685 in Halle, Germany. One of his most famous compositions is the Water Music—composed to serenade the King of England, traveling up and down the Thames in July of 1717. Which British monarch was serenaded with Handel’s Water Music?
Answer: George I, the former Elector of Hanover
Friday, February 20
Pianist and conductor Christoph Eschenbach was born on this date in 1940—he’s 75 today. A former music director of the Ravinia Festival, Maestro Eschenbach currently leads the Orchestre de Paris and one major American orchestra. Of what American orchestra is he the music director?
Answer: The National Symphony of Washington D.C. He is also music director of the Kennedy Center for the Arts.
Thursday, February 19
Violinist Gil Shaham was born on this date in 1971 in Urbana, Illinois when his parents were on academic fellowships at the University of Illinois. Mr. Shaham will be playing a recital at Orchestra Hall on Sunday March 1. The program consists entirely of music by one composer. Whose music will Gil Shaham be playing in Chicago?
Answer: J.S. Bach—the complete sonatas and partitas for unaccompanied violin
Wednesday, February 18
The wonderful American mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard was born on this date in 1982—she’s 33 years old today. In what opera will she be singing the title role in next year’s Lyric Opera Season?
Answer: Cinderella or Cenerentola in Rossini’s opera of that name
Tuesday, February 17
Puccini's Madama Butterfly had its premiere on this date, February 17, 1904 at La Scala, Milan. It was a flop, initially, but went on to become one of the most beloved of operas. Puccini once said that it was his personal favorite among his operas. What is Madama Butterfly's name?
Answer: Cio-Cio San
Monday, February 16
The Rakoczy March is named after an 18th century Hungarian hero. Several composers have made arrangements of that melody. Hector Berlioz made an orchestral arrangement of the march which he then included in one of his compositions. What is the name of the Berlioz composition which includes that march?
Answer: The Damnation of Faust
Friday, February 13
Yesterday was the anniversary of the first performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, February 12, 1924 at Aeolian Hall in NY. At the premiere, Gershwin hadn’t totally finished annotating the work. He improvised parts of the performance from the keyboard and cued the instrumentalists when it was time to come in. What ensemble accompanied that first performance?
Answer: The Paul Whiteman Band
Thursday, February 12
Who said this? “If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once a week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept active through use.” Hint: He was born on this date in 1809.
Answer: Charles Darwin
Wednesday, February 11
Might as well indulge myself on my birthday! I was born on this date in 1949 in Little Company of Mary Hospital—which is located in what village in Illinois?
Answer: Evergreen Park
Tuesday, February 10
Jacques Offenbach’s fantastic series of operatic stories, The Tales of Hoffmann, had its premiere on this date in Paris in 1881, four months after the composer’s death. What is the name of the character who sings herself to death, urged on by the apparition of her dead mother?
Monday, February 9
Giuseppe Verdi’s final opera, Falstaff, had its premiere on this date in 1893 at La Scala, Milan. It was the third and final opera of his Shakespeare-inspired works. What were the first two?
Answer: Macbeth and Othello (Note: The Chicago Symphony and Riccardo Muti will present concert performances of Falstaff on next year's concert schedule.)
Thursday, February 5
Ruth Craford Seeger was the stepmother of what famous folk singer?
Answer: Pete Seeger
Wednesday, February 4
Through the Looking Glass was the sequel to what famous book by Lewis Carroll?
Answer: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Tuesday, February 3
While in Scotland, Mendelssohn went on a boat trip to some islands and described that trip in a famous concert overture. What is its name?
Answer: The "Fingal's Cave" or "Hebrides" Overture
Monday, February 2
Carl Czemy was a pupil of what great, great composer? (Hint: he gave the Vienna premiere of that composer's 5th piano concerto)
Friday, January 30
Besides the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Riccardo Muti was the music director for another great American orchestra. Which one?
Answer: The Philadelphia Orchestra
Thursday, January 29
In what city is Covent Garden?
Wednesday, January 28
Wagner specified that Parsifal should only be performed in one location. Where?
Tuesday, January 27
What is the title of Mozart's 41st symphony?
Answer: The "Jupiter"
Monday, January 26
From whom did Ravel write his famous Boléro?
Answer: Ida Rubinstein
Friday, January 23
What was Bizet doing in Rome?
Answer: Studying as a winner of the Prix de Rome (Prize of Rome)
Thursday, January 22
Who wrote the theme on which Bach’s A Musical Offering is based?
Answer: King Frederick the Great of Prussia
Wednesday, January 21
Although Franz Liszt grew up speaking German and later lived many years in Italy, his language of choice was French. He never learn to speak a word of the language spoken in his native country. In which country was he born?
Tuesday, January 20
Sigmund Romberg wrote an operetta called Blossom Time in 1917 based on the melodies of what great composer? (Hint: His birthday is coming up on January 31 and is celebrated yearly by WFMT)
Answer: Franz Schubert
Monday, January 19
The Symphony #3, “Organ”, was dedicated to another great pianist and composer of the day who once called Saint-Saens the greatest organist in the world. This dedicatee was from Hungary and is credited with being the inventor of the symphonic poem and the piano recital. To whom did Saint-Saens dedicate his Organ Symphony?
Answer: Franz Liszt
Friday, January 16
How were Josef Suk and Antonin Dvorak related?
Answer: Suk was Dvorak’s son-in-law
Thursday, January 15
ETA Hoffmann wrote the story for which Tchaikovsky ballet?
Answer: The Nutcracker
Wednesday, January 14
The treaty of Aix-la Chappelle in 1748 ended what war?
Answer: The War of Austrian Succession
Tuesday, January 13
Felix Mendelssohn had a very talented sister to whom he was very close. What is her name?
Answer: Fanny Mendelssohn (or Fanny Mendelssohn Henselt)
Monday, January 12
In Italian, what does “andante” literally mean?
Friday, January 9
We're hearing all 4 Scherzos by Chopin this hour. How many piano sonatas did he write?
Thursday, January 8
Sir Charles Villiers Stanford was known as one of history’s greatest teachers of composers, counting Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams, John Ireland, Frank Bridge and many others among his pupils. Where did he teach?
Answer: University of Cambridge
Wednesday, January 7
Where is tenor Juan Diego FLorez from?
Answer: Lima, Peru
Tuesday, January 6
Turkish music has inspired many composers. Mozart wrote two Turkish-inspired operas (one incomplete). Name one of them.
Answer: The Abduction from the Seraglio or Zaide
Monday, January 5
In Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice there are only three characters: Orpheus, Euridice, and ...what is the third character?
Answer: Amor (or Cupid)
Friday, January 2
Rachmaninoff wrote a set of variations on this same tune and attributed the tune to the wrong composer. To whom did he attribute the tune “La Follia di Espagna” (who did use it in a set of variations)?
Answer: Arcangelo Corelli
Wednesday, December 31
We’re hearing the last works in particular genres by some of the greatest composers. What number is the last symphony by Anton Bruckner?
Tuesday, December 30
Edvard Grieg’s wife, Nina, was also a musician. What was her specialty?
Answer: Singer (soprano)
Monday, December 29
How many times did Maurice Ravel win the annual Prix de Rome contest at the Paris Conservatory?
Friday, December 26
It was Fanny Mendelssohn who introduced the Bach prelude in C to Gounod on which the famous Ave Maria is based. Fanny’s brother was instrumental in a revival of interest in Bach’s music. What great Bach work did Felix Mendelssohn conduct to begin this revival?
Answer: The St. Matthew Passion
Tuesday, December 23
Sibelius wrote a great deal of incidental music, including to Shakespeare's "The Tempest" and Adolf Paul's "Swanwhite". Who wrote the play for which the music of "Pelleas et Melisande" was composed?
Answer: Maurice Maeterlinck
Monday, December 22
Santa Claus is known as "Father Christmas" in England and "Pere Noel" in France. What is he known as in Holland?
Friday, December 19
Bach’s Christmas Oratorio isn’t really an oratorio, but rather a number of Christmas-related cantatas strung together. How many parts does it have?
Thursday, December 18
Concerning Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, what great composer called this work “The apotheosis of the dance”?
Answer: Richard Wagner
Wednesday, December 17
Sergei Prokofiev’s death happened on the exact same day as a very important Soviet figure. Who was it?
Tuesday, December 16
There was a favored pupil of Beethoven to whom he dedicated his Missa solemnis, the “Emperor” Concerto, the “Hammerklavier” sonata and a certain famous piano trio (among many other works). What was his name?
Answer: Archduke Rudolf of Austria
Monday, December 15
Ottorino Respighi was a composer who took great interest in composers of the past, arranging several early compositions for modern orchestras. In 1919 he arranged music into a ballet called “La boutique fantasque”. Upon whose music is it based?
Answer: Gioacchino Rossini
Friday, December 12
The Chicago Symphony has had 10 Music Directors, including Riccardo Muti, since its founding by Theodore Thomas. To this day, one of the best known, aside from Sir Georg Solti is Fritz Reiner. Who was Music Director BEFORE Reiner came to Chicago in 1953?
Answer: Rafael Kubelik.
Tuesday, December 9
Rimsky-Korsakov wrote several works inspired by the orient (including Sheherazade from which we will soon excerpt). His mentor Mily Balakirev did, as well. There is a very famous and difficult eastern-inspired piece by Balakirev called Islamey. What prominent Russian composer orchestrated it?
Answer: Sergei Liapunov.
Monday, December 8
Tchaikovsky wrote three great full-length ballets. Is the Nutcracker the 1st, 2nd or 3rd?
Answer: The 3rd.
Friday, December 5
Max Bruch was interested in music traditions of all nations, writing Swedish Dances, the Scottish Fantasy, Italian inspired works and…a piece based on one of the most revered Jewish melodies. What is it?
Answer: Kol Nidrei.
Thursday, December 4
David Popper was somewhat unusual a cellist in that he didn’t have that little metal thing that sticks out of the bottom of the cello. What is it called?
Answer: The “endpin” or “spike”.
Wednesday, December 3
Gerard Schwarz began his career as a highly regarded trumpeter before becoming a prominent conductor. He was the principal trumpeter of what great American orchestra until 1973?
Answer: New York Philharmonic.
Tuesday, December 2
There is an “opera” company in England that is closely associated with the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan, founded in 1870 and closed for the first time in 1982. What is it’s name?
Answer: The O’Oyly Carte opera Company.
Monday, December 1
Arthur Bliss was the "Master of the Queen's Music" for Queen Elizabeth from 1953-1975. Who preceded him in that role?
Answer: Sir Arnold Bax.
Tuesday, November 4
Today is Election Day in the United States. An old song goes: “Yes, the candidate’s a dodger, yes a well-known dodger. The candidate’s a dodger, yes and I’m a dodger too. He’ll meet you and treat you and ask you for your vote. But look out, boys, he’s a dodgin’ for a note.” Who made the best-known setting of that folk song?
Answer: Aaron Copland in his Old American Songs.
Monday, November 3
What is it? It has the highest electrical conductivity of any element. It’s a type of collar coin. It’s a type of Christmas bell. And it’s the color of Orlando Gibbons’ swan. What is it?
Friday, October 31
It’s Halloween. And we’re playing music about ghosts and goblins and things that go “bump” in the…well, morning! We’ve just heard several depictions of the devil, and we have one more coming up when we hear the final scene from The Damnation of Faust. Who composed The Damnation of Faust?
Answer: Hector Berlioz.
Thursday, October 30
The ballet Appalachian Spring with music by Aaron Copland had its premiere on this date in 1944--70 years ago today. The original version of the score called for a 13-member chamber orchestra--because the space for musicians at the Library of Congress was so small. Copland won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Music for the full orchestral version. Who was the dancer and choreographer who commissioned Appalachian Spring and danced the leading role?
Answer: Martha Graham.
Wednesday, October 29
Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni had its premiere on this date in 1787 in Prague. The commission was a result of the great popularity of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in Prague. In the Lyric Opera production of Don Giovanni which ends its run tonight, who has sung the title role?
Answer: Mariusz Kwiecien.
Tuesday, October 28
Today is the birthday of American composer, conductor, and educator Howard Hanson—born in Wahoo, Nebraska in 1896. His Symphony #4, Requiem, won the Pulitzer Prize for Music. For 40 years he served as Director of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. At what college did Howard Hanson receive his B.A. in Music in 1916?
Answer: Northwestern University.
Monday, October 27
Tonight is opening night for Lyric Opera’s production of Verdi’s Il Trovatore. We’ll have the broadcast beginning at 7:15 pm. Two alumni of Lyric’s Ryan Opera Center, now enjoying major careers, are returning to Chicago for major roles in Trovatore. Name either one.
Answer: Soprano Amber Wagner sings Leonora. Baritone Quinn Kelsey sings Count di Luna.
Friday, October 24
A well-known pianist and entertainer once replied to his critics with the words, “What you have said hurt me very much. I cried all the way to the bank!” Who said that?
Answer: Wladziu Valentino) Liberace.
Thursday, October 23
Yesterday was the birthday of the old Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. The original Met opened on Broadway between 39th and 40th streets with a performance of a French opera that was exceedingly popular in the late 19th century. What opera opened the Old Met?
Answer: Charles Gounod’s Faust.
Wednesday, October 22
Who am I? My father was employed by Haydn. As a boy, I met Hummel. I played for Beethoven who kissed me. Later I studied with Czerny and Salieri. As a young man I met Berlioz and I heard Paganini play. I became a friend to Chopin and St. Saens. And I became Richard Wagner’s father in law. Who am I?
Answer: Franz Liszt, born 203 years ago today.
Tuesday, October 21
Sir Georg Solti was born on this date in 1912--102 years ago today. Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1969-1991, Sir Georg still holds the record for the most Grammy Awards. One of his first professional positions was as an assistant and rehearsal pianist at the 1937 Salzburg Festival. The 24-year-old Solti even played in the pit for the Salzburg performances of The Magic Flute, conducted by Arturo Toscanini. What instrument did he play?
Answer: He played the glockenspiel for Papageno’s aria.
Monday, October 20
American composer Charles Ives was born on this date in 1874. His earliest musical training came from his father, a Civil War bandmaster, who led the town band. Young Charles played percussion in the band as a young boy and was a church organist as a teenager. He later studied music at Yale. Now considered an American original, his music was largely ignored during his lifetime and he made his living as an insurance agent. In what town was Charles Ives born--where his father served as town bandmaster?
Answer: Danbury, CT.
Friday, October 17
Who am I? I was born on this date in 1977—I’m 37 today. I am of African-American, Korean, and Caucasian ancestry and I grew up in Ventura, California. I studied at Eastman and briefly at Juilliard before being invited tojoin Lyric Opera’s Ryan Center for Young Artists. My big break came in 2005 when I won the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. Now I’m enjoying an international career but still consider Chicago my home base. Who am I?
Answer: Soprano Nicole Cabell.
Thursday, October 16
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra played its very first concert on this date in 1891. The orchestra’s founder and conductor Theodore Thomas led a concert of music by Beethoven, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner. Where did that concert take place 123 years ago today?
Answer: The Auditorium Theater on Congress.
Wednesday, October 15
Which operetta by Franz Lehar was a flop in Vienna when it opened with the title The Yellow Jacket, but later became a big hit in Berlin with Richard Tauber starring as a Chinese prince?
Answer: The Land of Smiles.
Tuesday, October 14
Who am I? I was born on this date in 1928 in New York. I began studying piano at the age of 3 and entered the Curtis Institute at 7! I made my professional debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the age of 19. I studied with Vladimir Horowitz and Rudolf Serkin. In 1980 I joined the faculty of the Curtis Institute and served as its president for 11 years. My autobiography is titled “I Really Should Be Practicing.” Who am I?
Answer: Gary Graffman.
Monday, October 13
What do these pieces of music have in common? Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto #3…Glazunov’s Triumphal March…Stravinsky’s Symphony in C…Walton’s Scapino Overture…and Prokofiev’s opera The Love for Three Oranges?
Answer: They all had their world premieres in Chicago.
Friday, October 10
Today is the 201st anniversary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi. No big celebration—that was last year! And last year the CSO celebrated with concert performances of his opera Macbeth. And Lyric Opera opened its season with Otello. What is Verdi’s third Shakespearean opera?
Thursday, October 9
The French composer Camille St. Saens was born on this date in 1835 in Paris; he lived until 1921. He was also a conductor, and organist, and a pianist. A child prodigy at the keyboard, he learned to read and write and the age of 3 and played a recital at the age of 5. He is best-remembered for his opera Samson & Delilah, The Carnival of the Animals, Danse Macabre, and 5 piano concertos. His Marche Militaire Francaise comes from what larger work?
Answer: Suite Algerienne.
Wednesday, October 8
The Russian composer Tchaikovsky spent some very happy times in Italy. One musical result was his Capriccio Italien. He also wrote a string sextet with a title referring to an Italian city. What is that work?
Answer: Souvenir de Florence.
Tuesday, October 7
Another who am I? I was born in Boston on this date in 1746. I began as a tanner before making a meager living as a composer. I died in poverty in 1800. Despite my lack of formal musical training, I became known as the Father of American Choral Music. Who am I?
Answer: William Billings.
Monday, October 6
Who am I? I was born in Ireland in 1856. I first gained fame as a music critic writing under the name Cornetto di Bassetto. One of the best-known playwrights of the 20th century, I won the Nobel Prize for Literature. And I remain the only person to win both an Oscar and a Nobel Prize. I also wrote a book about Wagner. Who am I?
Answer: George Bernard Shaw.
Tuesday, September 30
Today is the anniversary of the first performance of Mozart's opera The Magic Flute. The premiere took place six weeks before Mozart's death in 1791. What Mozart opera just opened Lyric Opera of Chicago's 60th anniversary season?
Answer: Don Giovanni.
Monday, September 29
Igor Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier's Tale) had its premiere September 28, 1918 in Switzerland. Soldier's Tale is a theatrical work "...to be read, played, and danced," as Stravinsky said. It's the classic tale of a man selling his soul to the devil. But in Soldier's Tale, the man's soul is represented by one of his possessions. What does the soldier sell to the devil?
Answer: His violin.
Friday, September 26
American composer George Gershwin was born in this date in 1898 in Brooklyn. He began his career as a song plugger, but soon started composing Broadway theater works and, eventually, classical music. Gershwin’s Catfish Row is a suite drawn from what larger work by Gershwin?
Answer: The opera Porgy and Bess which will be presented this season by Lyric Opera-Chicago.
Thursday, September 25
Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich was born on this date in 1906; he died in 1975. After listening to a phonograph record of a popular song, Conductor Nicolai Malko bet Shostakovich that he could not orchestrate that song from memory in the space of one hour. The song was Tea for Two by Vincent Youmans. What was the title Shostakovich gave to his orchestral version?
Answer: Tahiti Trot—which he composed in 45 minutes.
Wednesday, September 24
Last Friday night, more than 20,000 people crowded into Millennium Park for a free concert by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra led by Riccardo Muti. The all Tchaikovsky concert held the Symphony #4 and a suite from the ballet The Sleeping Beauty. What was the third Tchaikovsky composition on the program?
Answer: The symphonic fantasy--The Tempest.
Tuesday, September 23
Alexander Borodin, the Russian composer, doctor, and chemist is best remembered for his opera Prince Igor, his symphonies, and his string quartets. Although he died in 1887, he won a Tony Award (Broadway’s annual award) in 1954. Why?
Answer: Music from Prince Igor and his string quartets was adapted by Robert Wright and George Forrest for the Broadway musical Kismet.
Monday, September 22
The Autumnal Equinox occurs at 9:29 this evening, but we’re featuring music for the season this morning on WFMT. Of course, we played Autumn from The Four Seasons by Vivaldi. The Four Seasons are the first 4 concertos in a larger work by Vivaldi consisting of twelve concertos. What is the name of this collection?
Answer: The Contest Between Harmony and Invention.
Friday, September 19
What famous but modest musician once said, “There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself."
Answer: Johann Sebastian Bach. WFMT’s Bach Organ Project begins this Sunday afternoon when organists Stephen Alltop and Bruce Barber play Bach on the organ of St.Clement’s Catholic Church in Chicago.
Thursday, September 18
No quiz today because it's Super Thursday.
Wednesday, September 17
The story line of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is a sequel to Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville, with most of the characters appearing in both operas. Who wrote the plays on which those operas are based?
Answer: The French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais.
Tuesday, September 16
48 years ago tonight, Thomas Schippers conducted the world premiere of Samuel Barber’s opera Antony and Cleopatra starring Justino Diaz and Leontyne Price in the starring roles. What was the occasion?
Answer: The opening of the new Metropolitan Opera house in Lincoln Center, NY.
Monday, September 15
Who am I? I was born on this date in 1876 in Berlin. I began studying conducting and obtained my first post while still a teenager. In my 20s, I became Gustav Mahler’s assistant at the Court Opera in Vienna. My career flourished in Germany and Austria until I left for the U.S. in 1939. In America I conducted many major orchestras (including the CSO) and at the Metropolitan Opera. I held a post with the N.Y. Philharmonic and made many recordings of the core German repertoire for Columbia Records. Who am I?
Answer: Bruno Walter
Friday, September 12
Gustav Mahler conducted the premiere of his Eighth Symphony on this date in 1910, four years after completing the work and just eight months before he died. What is the nickname for his 8th symphony?
Answer: The Symphony of a Thousand. That was an understatement at the premiere. The first performance included 858 singers and an orchestra of 171!
Thursday, September 11
In American usage, we have the terms whole note, half note, quarter note, etc. But the British have different terms—including quavers, semi-quavers, and, yes, hemi-demi-semi-quavers! What is the British term for a quarter note?
Answer: A crotchet.
Wednesday, September 10
Who am I? I was born in Seaham Harbor, Durham in England 70 years ago today. I was intending a career in medicine when I was awarded a scholarship to the Royal College of Music. I made my operatic debut in 1969 and my Covent Garden debut in 1971. Since then I’ve gone on to an international career in opera and art song. I was awarded the Queen’s Medal for Music last year and I am popularly known as “Britain’s favorite baritone.” Who am I?
Answer: Sir Thomas Allen.
Tuesday, September 9
Benjamin Britten’s opera Billy Budd has an all-male cast. What opera by Puccini has an all-female cast?
Answer: Suor Angelica, one of the three operas in Il Trittico.
Monday, September 8
American composer Leonard Bernstein’s Mass had its premiere on this date in 1971. What was the occasion for which it was composed?
Answer: The opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington D.C.
Friday, September 5
Johann Christian Bach was born on this date in Leipzig in 1735. The youngest son of Johann and Anna Magdalena Bach, he studied with his father and with his older brother, CPE Bach. He later moved to Italy and was organist of the Milan Cathedral. Later he moved to another musical capitol and remained there for the rest of his life. What city became the adopted home of JC Bach?
Thursday, September 4
Today is the birthday of the French composer Darius Milhaud. A member of Les Six, Milhaud’s pupils included Americans Dave Brubeck and Burt Bachrach. One of his most popular Brazilian-influenced compositions has a whimsical title which later gave its name to a celebrated Parisian cabaret which became a meeting place for Jean Cocteau and members of Les Six. What is the name of this composition?
Answer: Le Boeuf sur le Toit.
Wednesday, September 3
Last night’s opera on WFMT was “The Pearlfishers” by Georges Bizet. The opera contains a famous duet in which two fishermen sing of their love for a Brahmin princess. The opera takes place in what was then known as Ceylon. What is the current name of that country?
Answer: Sri Lanka.
Tuesday, September 2
Yesterday, September 1, was the 70th birthday of conductor Leonard Slatkin. The son of Hollywood conductor and violinist Felix Slatkin and cellist Eleanor Aller, Mr. Slatkin has had a long and active career. Of what American orchestra is he currently the music director?
Answer: The Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Friday, August 29
The Italian composer Amilcare Ponchieli was born on this Sunday’s date—August 31—in 1834. His most famous melody has been used to accompany dancing hippos in Fantasia and sung as “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” by Alan Sherman. From what opera does that melody come?
Answer: La Gioconda
Thursday, August 28
This opera had its premiere on this date in 1850 in Weimar, Germany. It is based on a medieval German legend. The beginning of Act III contains two of the most famous excerpts in all of opera—the exciting prelude and the opening chorus. Name the opera and the composer.
Answer: Lohengrin by Richard Wagner
Wednesday, August 27
Earlier this morning was our annual “Back to School” segment of the morning show which included the Brahms Academic Festival Overture. Brahms wrote the overture—rather than give a speech—when he was awarded an honorary degree from what university?
Answer: University of Breslau in Germany--now known as Wroclaw, Poland
Tuesday, August 26
The German conductor and pianist Wolfgang Sawallisch was born on this date in 1923--he passed away last year. He had a very long recording career as we've shown this morning. Whom did Maestro Sawallisch follow when he became Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra?
Answer: Riccardo Muti
Monday, August 25
Today is the 96th birthday of American composer, conductor, pianist, lecturer, author—the list goes on and on—Leonard Bernstein. Born in Lawrence, Massachusetts he attended Harvard. He then continued his musical education at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Who was Leonard Bernstein’s conducting professor at Curtis?
Answer: Fritz Reiner
Friday, August 22
Today is Cedille Day on WFMT. We are featuring recordings from the Chicago-based classical record label, Cedille. Our special guest is the founder of Cedille Records, Jim Ginsburg. What does Jim’s mother do for a living?
Answer: She is an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Thursday, August 21
Another “who am I” today—and a fascinating one. I was born 121 years ago today. My mother was a Russian princess who married her teacher at the Paris Conservatory. He was 77 when I was born. Our family friend Gabriel Faure discovered that I had perfect pitch when I was 2. I won the Prix de Rome at the age of 19 but I died at the age of 24. My famous sister lived for another 61 years before she was buried next to me in the Montmartre Cemetery. Who am I?
Answer: French composer Lili Boulanger, sister of Nadia.
Wednesday, August 20
Who am I? I am 40 years old today. I began studying violin at the age of 5 and practiced 7 hours a day. At the age of 16 I began winning major international competitions and recording prizes. Since 2005, I have been a Professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Due to an injury I didn’t play much for 4 years until returning to the concert stage in 2012. Last year I gave a recital at Ravinia which was re-broadcast last week on WFMT. Who am I?
Answer: Violinist Maxim Vengerov.
Tuesday, August 19
American humorist Ogden Nash was born on this date in 1902. In his version of The Carnival of the Animals by St. Saens, he wrote: “The swan can swim while sitting down, For pure conceit he takes the crown. He looks in the mirror over and over, And claims to have never heard of ___________ .” Fill in the blank.
Monday, August 18
The Italian composer Antonio Salieri was born in Legnano on this date in 1750. He was only a little more than 5 years older than Mozart—not significantly older as depicted in Amadeus. Neither was he an enemy of Mozart. Among Salieri’s pupils were Mozart’s son Franz, not to mention Franz Schubert, Franz Liszt, and Beethoven! Who won an Academy Award for his depiction of Salieri in the 1984 film Amadeus?
Answer: F. Murray Abraham.
Friday, August 15
The musical travelogue Ports of Call by Jacques Ibert depicts travels to three different countries. The first section depicts Rome and Palermo in Italy. The second section describes the northern coast of Africa. Where is the third section’s final port of call?
Answer: Valencia in Spain.
Thursday, August 14
Yesterday was the birthday of film director and producer Alfred Hitchcock, born in London in 1899. His American television program ran from 1955-1965. What was the musical theme for his television series? Title AND composer, please.
Answer: Funeral March of a Marionette by Charles Gounod.
Wednesday, August 13
Today marks the anniversary of the opening of the first complete performance of the Ring of the Nibelungs cycle. It began with a performance of Das Rheingold on this date in 1876. It also marked the opening of Wagner's own opera house--built to his specifications in what German city?
Tuesday, August 12
How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank. That line is from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. It's also the first line of what musical composition?
Answer: Serenade to Music by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Monday, August 11
Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra is subtitled "Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Henry Purcell." The theme by Purcell comes from his incidental music for a play. What is the FULL name of the play?
Answer: Abdelazer or The Moor's Revenge.
Thursday, August 7
In 1899, a composer wrote the music for a patriotic pageant titled Finland Awakes. One year later he arranged the final portion of that music as an orchestral tone poem. What is the name of the orchestral work and who composed it?
Answer: Finlandia by Jean Sibelius.
Wednesday, August 6
Who am I? I was born on this date in 1809 and I am the second most frequently quoted writer—after Shakespeare—in the Oxford Book of Quotations. ‘Tis better to have loved and lost, Than never to have loved at all… Theirs is not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die…The old order changeth, yielding place to new…Knowledge comes but wisdom lingers. I wrote all those lines. Who am I?
Answer: Alfred (Lord) Tennyson, author of Ring Out, Wild Bells, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal.
Tuesday, August 5
The English folk song begins: It was on the fifth of August, er’ the weather fine and fair, Unto (blank) I did repair, For love I was inclined. To where did the writer repair?
Answer: Brigg Fair.
Monday, August 4
American composer William Schuman was born in New York on this date in 1910. He played violin and banjo as a child and later formed a dance band. But his overwhelming love as a young man was baseball! Later the President of the Juilliard School and of Lincoln Center, Schuman won the very first Pulitzer Prize in Music—and later won another special Pulitzer. He also wrote a short opera about baseball! Name the opera OR the poem it’s based on.
Answer: Mighty Casey based on Ernest Thayer’s Casey at the Bat.
Friday, August 1
Who am I? I was born on this date in 1779 in Carroll Country, Maryland. I was a lawyer, an author, and an amateur poet. My poem “The Defense of Fort McHenry” has achieved great fame as a song—set to a tune by John Stafford Smith. Who am I and what is the title of the song based on my poem?
Answer: Francis Scott Key “The Star-Spangled Banner."
Thursday, July 31
“Play, you gypsy fiddler!” Gypsy music shows up quite often in classical music. Songs, operatic choruses, and instrumental music—many composers have written music with a gypsy flavor. Who wrote a composition for violin and orchestra titled “Gypsy Airs” or “Zigeunerweisen?”
Answer: Pablo de Sarasate.
Wednesday, July 30
The English pianist Gerald Moore was born on this date in 1899. He was best known as an accompanist for some of the world’s finest musicians—especially singers such as Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Victoria de los Angeles, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. He wrote two memoirs—name either one.
Answer: The Unashamed Accompanist and Am I Too Loud?.
Tuesday, July 29
Sigmund Romberg was born on this date in 1887. The Austro-Hungarian composer came to America at the age of 22. After a brief stint working in a pencil factory, he got a job playing piano in a café. He later arranged and composed music for the Schubert brothers theaters—including several shows starring Al Jolson. He is best remembered for his operettas The Student Prince, Desert Song, and New Moon. In 1954 a film was made of Romberg’s life in which he was played by Jose Ferrer. What is the name of that film?
Answer: Deep in My Heart.
Monday, July 28
Today is Riccardo Muti’s 73rd birthday—born in Naples in 1941. Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and one of the most honored and respected conductors in the world, Maestro Muti is considered one of the leading interpreters of the music of Giuseppe Verdi. How did Maestro Muti celebrate Verdi’s 200th birthday last October?
Answer: Leading the CSO & Chorus and soloists in a performance of the Verdi Requiem (which was streamed around the world).
Friday, July 25
Today is the birthday of the legendary former principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Adolph “Bud” Herseth—born in 1921; he passed away last year. Bud played 1st trumpet from 1948-2001, spanning the tenures of six CSO Music Directors. Which Music Director hired Bud Herseth?
Answer: Artur Rodzinski, although he left the orchestra before the beginning of the 1948-49 season, Herseth’s first.
Thursday, July 24
Another “who am I?” I was born 67 years ago today. At age 11 I began studying at the Curtis Institute where my father was one of my teachers. My concert career began in 1959 when I was 13! I played at the Marlboro Festival—the festival founded by my father, my grandfather, and my great-uncle. Who am I?
Answer: Pianist Peter Serkin.
Wednesday, July 23
Pianist Leon Fleisher is 86 years old today, born in 1928 in San Francisco where he began studying piano at the age of 4. Despite losing a portion of his career to focal dystonia, Mr. Fleisher has had one of the longest careers of any instrumentalists. More than 50 years ago he made a series of recordings for Columbia including all the piano concertos of Beethoven and Brahms. With what orchestra and conductor did Mr. Fleisher make those recordings?
Answer: Cleveland Orchestra/George Szell.
Tuesday, July 22
Soprano Licia Albanese was born on this date in 1913—she is 101 years old today! She was a leading star at the Met from 1940-1966. She sang Butterfly more than 300 times in her career and she sang more Violettas at the Met than any other artist. In 1946 she sang Mimi in the famous NBC/Toscanini broadcast of Puccini's La Boheme, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first performance of Boheme, ALSO conducted by Arturo Toscanini. Who was her Rodolfo in that broadcast?
Answer: Jan Peerce.
Monday, July 21
Who am I? I was born on this date in 1899 in Oak Park, IL. I began as a reporter for the Kansas City Star before leaving for the Italian front to enlist as a WWI ambulance driver. I was later a foreign correspondent based in Paris. I saw the Normandy landings and the liberation of Paris. I published 7 novels, 6 short story collections, and 2 non-fiction works. I won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in literature in 1954. Who am I?
Answer: Ernest Hemingway.
Friday, July 17
In what French opera, does a portrait on the wall come to life, urging the soprano to sing and sing until she dies? What is the opera/who is the composer?
Answer: Tales of Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach.
Thursday, July 17
Today is the 100th birthday of American soprano Eleanor Steber, born in Wheeling WV. She was one of the first operatic stars to train and perform mainly in the U.S. Today is also the birthday of a younger American soprano who will be appearing in concert at Ravinia next month with the Knights chamber orchestra. Who is she?
Answer: Dawn Upshaw, born in 1960.
Wednesday, July 16
This German city has been the home of three different concert halls—all bearing the same name. Only the first of these halls was aptly named because it was housed in a textile or cloth factory. Still the title remains on today’s modern version. What is the city…and what is the name of the hall?
Answer: Leipzig Gewandhaus.
Tuesday, July 15
Mozart composed 27 piano concertos, 5 violin concertos, 1 concerto for each woodwind instrument, at least 4 for horn, and another for flute and harp. Which was the last concerto composed by Mozart?
Answer: The Clarinet Concerto, K.622.
Monday, July 14
Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite! It’s Bastille Day, the French national holiday. We’ve already heard two versions of the French national anthem, La Marseillaise. Who wrote La Marseillaise?
Answer: Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle.
Thursday, July 10
German composer Carl Orff was born in Munich on this date in 1895; he lived until 1982. He is best-remembered for his colorful cantata Carmina Burana, written in 1937. He was also influential in developing new methods of music education for children. What are the first two words of Carmina Burana?
Answer: O Fortuna.
Wednesday, July 9
Italian composer Ottorino Respighi was born on this date in Bologna in 1879. He lived only to the age of 56. In addition to his Roman trilogy, he also composed many works based on 16th, 17th, and 18th century dances: his three Ancient Airs and Dances suites, The Birds, and others. He also wrote a piece depicting three paintings. What is this composition?
Answer: Trittico Botticelliano (Botticelli Triptych) based on three Botticelli paintings in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
Tuesday, July 8
Composer Percy Grainger was born on this date in 1882. He left his native Australia to study in Frankfurt. He lived in England for many years and was instrumental in the revival of British folk music. He came to the U.S. in 1914 and eventually became an American citizen. He enlisted as a bandsman in the US Army in 1917, playing what instrument?
Answer: He played saxophone...although he also reported learning the oboe.
Monday, July 7
Composer Gustav Mahler was born on this date in 1860. Better known as a conductor during his lifetime, he held posts with in Leipzig, Budapest, Hamburg, and Vienna. Late in his short life, he conducted at the Metropolitan Opera and was the director of the NY Philharmonic. Among those present at his burial in Vienna in 1911 were Arnold Schonberg, Bruno Walter, and the painter Gustav Klimt. Mahler was born in the town of Kalischt in what was then the Austrian Empire. In what country is that town now?
Answer: Now known as Kaliste in the Czech Republic.
Thursday, July 3
Tomorrow we will have our traditional 4th of July edition of the Morning Program—filled with American music, fireworks music, etc. Included will be music by an American composer born on July 4, 1826—the 50th birthday of the U.S. and the day that both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died. Who is that composer?
Answer: Stephen Foster.
Wednesday, July 2
Today is the 300th birthday of composer Christoph Willibald Gluck. It is also the 100th birthday of conductor Frederick Fennell. Born in Cleveland, Fennell was the most famous conductor of his time of music for wind instruments. His recordings with the Eastman Wind Ensemble, the Cleveland Symphonic Winds, and the Dallas Wind Symphony are the gold standards of band recordings. What was Frederick Fennell’s instrument?
Tuesday, July 1
Today is Canada Day and we are featuring various Canadian composers, artists, and ensembles. Composer Malcolm Forsyth was born in South Africa but emigrated to Canada where he played trombone in the Edmonton Symphony and was Professor of Music at the University of Alberta for 34 years. He died in 2011. Who is Malcolm Forsyth’s famous son-in-law?
Answer: Pinchas Zukerman—who is married to Forsyth’s daughter, cellist Amanda Forsyth.
Monday, June 30
Today is the birthday of conductor/composer Esa-Pekka Salonen. He was Music Director of the LA Philharmonic from 1992-2009 and is currently the Principal Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. He is also spending more time composing. Maestro Salonen is currently featured in a television commercial showing how he uses an electronic device in his composing. What is the product in the commercials?
Answer: Apple’s iPad.
Friday, June 27
Earlier this week, we played music by two members of the Couperin family—who were related—and two composers named Charpentier—who were not related. Here’s a relationship question: what is the connection between Giovanni Gabrieli and Andrea Gabrieli, both of whom were organists at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice?
Answer: Andrea was the uncle of Giovanni.
Thursday, June 26
Conductor Claudio Abbado was born on this date in Milan in 1933; he passed away in January. He held some of the most prestigious posts in music: music director of La Scala; conductor of the London Symphony; music director of the Vienna State Opera; principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic; and principal guest conductor of the CSO. After Maestro Abbado retired from the Berlin Philharmonic in 2002, he founded another highly-acclaimed orchestra—one that existed only in August of each year. What was that orchestra?
Answer: Lucerne Festival Orchestra.
Wednesday, June 25
Igor Stravinsky’s ballet The Firebird had its premiere on this date in 1910 in Paris. It was the first of the three ballets Stravinsky would composer for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in the next three years—followed by Petrouchka and The Rite of Spring. Who conducted the Firebird premiere 104 years ago today?
Answer: Gabriel Pierne.
Tuesday, June 24
The composer Hans Pfitzner wrote an opera about the composer Palestrina. Friedrich von Flotow wrote an opera about the composer Alessandro Stradella. Who wrote an opera titled Mozart and Salieri?
Monday, June 23
Today is the 71st birthday of James Levine. Best known for his long association with the Metropolitan Opera, he has also been Music Director of the Ravinia Festival, the Munich Philharmonic, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. After a two-year hiatus due to health problems, Maestro Levine returned to the Met this past season conducting several productions. Where was James Levine born and raised?
Answer: Cincinnati, Ohio.
Friday, June 20
Who am I? I was born on this date 195 years ago in Cologne, Germany, the son of a synagogue cantor. For 20 years I earned a living as a cellist and conductor. But my greatest fame came as a composer of nearly 100 comic operettas and one standard opera. Who am I?
Answer: Jacques Offenbach, born Jacob Eberst in Germany.
Thursday, June 19Sir Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations was first performed on this date in 1899. It consists of fourteen variations, each one a musical depiction of one of his acquaintances. The final variation is titled E.D.U. Whom does it portray?
Answer: Elgar himself. Mrs. Elgar’s nickname for the composer was "Edu."
Wednesday, June 18
The late Roger Ebert was born on this date in 1942. He would have been 72 years old today. The late conductor Hans Vonk also would have been 72 today. A famous English composer is celebrating his 72nd birthday today. Name him.
Answer: Paul McCartney.
Tuesday, June 17
Today is the birthday of Igor Stravinsky. One of his early orchestral works was composed as a wedding present for the daughter of his teacher Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov. What is the name of this short orchestral piece?
Answer: Fireworks (Feu d’artifice).
Monday, June 16
Benjamin Britten’s opera Billy Budd has an all-male cast. What opera by Puccini has an all-female cast?
Answer: Suor Angelica.
Friday, June 13
We are broadcasting today's "Breakfast with Carl" from what is usually our Fay and Daniel Levin Performance Studio. One week ago today, on Engineer Appreciation Day, I interviewed the former Chief Engineer of WFMT who was the designer of this excellent room. What is his name?
Answer: Gordon Carter.
Thursday, June 12
What do the following pieces of music have in common? Beethoven’s Violin Concerto…Bach’s Christmas Oratorio…Haydn’s Symphony #103…and Richard Strauss’s Burleske?
Answer: They each begin with a timpani solo.
Wednesday, June 11
German composer Richard Strauss was born 150 years ago today in Munich where his father Franz Strauss was the leading horn player of the court orchestra. Strauss is remembered for his operas (Rosenkavalier, Salome, and others), his tone poems (Till Eulenspiegel, Don Juan, etc.) his songs and his concertos for violin, oboe, and horn. What is the name of his autobiographical tone poem?
Answer: Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life)].
Tuesday, June 10
I have been hosting the WFMT Morning Program since the last century! I started my current tenure on Monday June 10, 1996—18 years ago today. What was the first composer I played on that morning?
Answer: J.S. Bach. The finale of the Brandenburg Concerto #1. It was before the era of Monday Morning Mozart.
Monday, June 9
The Danish composer Carl Nielsen was born on this date in 1865. He was also a conductor and a violinist. He is remembered for his six symphonies, his wind quintet, and concertos for violin, flute, and clarinet. What is the nickname for his Symphony #4?
Answer: The Inextinguishable.
Friday, June 6
The American-Soviet composer Aram Khachaturian was born on this date 111 years ago in 1903. Born in Azerbaijan, he moved to Moscow at the age of 19 and graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1934. Among his best known works are the ballets Spartacus and Gayaneh and his Violin Concerto. The concerto was composed in 1940 and first performed and recorded by what violinist?
Answer: David Oistrakh.
Thursday, June 5
American composer Daniel Pinkham was born 91 years ago today--in 1923. He died in 2006. He was the organist of King’s Chapel in Boston for 42 years and appeared as organist and harpsichordist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Pinkham’s most famous composition contains a setting of the text “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.” What is the name of the work from which this comes?
Answer: Christmas Cantata.
Wednesday, June 4
Another film question today. The 1980 film Somewhere in Time was a romantic science fiction tale involving time travel starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. The film score was by John Barry. But what piece of classical music did he use as the main theme (or love theme) from Somewhere in Time?
Answer: Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini by Rachmaninoff—specifically the 18th variation.
Tuesday, June 3
Yet another film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby was released last summer. What American composer wrote an operatic version of The Great Gatsby which had its premiere at the Met in 1999 and was performed at Lyric Opera of Chicago the next season?
Answer: John Harbison.
Monday, June 2
On this first weekday morning in June, we offer the following: "Oh, my love is like a red, red, rose that’s newly sprung in June. My love is like a melody that’s sweetly sung in tune.” Who wrote these lovely words?
Answer: Scottish poet Robert Burns.
Friday, May 30
The final movement of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony is a theme and variations on a theme that Beethoven used on three other occasions. One of them was a ballet first performed in Vienna in 1801. What is the name of the ballet in which Beethoven first used what we now call the “Eroica” theme?
Answer:The Creatures of Prometheus, followed by the Eroica Variations for piano, the Eroica symphony, and a contredance.
Thursday, May 29
The ballet Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) had its famous (or infamous) premiere 101 years ago today in Paris. It was produced by Serge Diaghilev for his Ballets Russes company. Igor Stravinsky wrote the music; Pierre Monteux conducted. Who choreographed the first performance of The Rite of Spring?
Answer: Vaclav Nijinsky.
Wednesay, May 28
Tomorrow is the birthday of American soprano Susanna Phillips, born in 1981. Ms. Phillips has sung frequently in Chicago in the last few years. Earlier this month she gave a Schubert recital with Eric Owens. And last week she filled in as soprano soloist in four concerts with the CSO when soprano Dorothea Roschmann had to cancel. What did Ms. Phillips sing with the Chicago Symphony last week?
Answer: Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss.
Tuesday, May 27
One of Gilbert & Sullivan’s most popular operettas, H.M.S. Pinafore had its debut in 1878 in London –136 years ago this week. When the plot finally unravels, Ralph Rackstraw ends up with his beloved Josephine; the former Captain Corcoran ends up with Little Buttercup. What is the name of the character who describes himself as the Monarch of the Sea—the one with all the sisters and cousins and aunts?
Answer: Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B.
Friday, May 23
Yesterday, in addition to being Wagner’s birthday, was also the anniversary of the first performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem. It was performed in the church of San Marcos in Milan, May 22, 1874. In whose honor was the Verdi Requiem composed?
Answer: Allesandro Manzoni, and Italian poet and novelist.
Thursday, May 22
Today is the 201st anniversary of the birth of Richard Wagner, born in Leipzig in 1813. His career took him to several German cities, but also to Riga, Latvia and to Paris. And he lived in Switzerland for several years when he was barred from Germany because of his political views. In what German city did Wagner direct the design and construction of his own opera house specifically for the presentation of his operas?
Answer: Bayreuth. The Bayreuth Festspielhaus opened in 1876.
Wednesday, May 21
Ruggero Leoncavallo’s opera Pagliacci had its premiere on this date, May 21, 1892 in Milan. The conductor was a 25-year-old Arturo Toscanini. What character in Pagliacci steps in front of the curtain to deliver the prologue to the opera?
Answer: The baritone Tonio.
Tuesday, May 20
Some of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies have nicknames. #1 is “Winter Dreams.” #6 is the “Pathetique.” What is the nickname of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #2?
Answer: Little Russian--an old term for Ukraine.
Monday, May 19
The Ballets Russes staged its first performance in Paris on this date in 1909. The Ballets Russes is widely regarded as the most influential ballet company of the 20th century. The company commissioned works from composers Igor Stravinsky and Claude Debussy, artists Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse and designer Coco Chanel among others. Who founded the Ballets Russes?
Answer: Sergei Diaghilev.
Thursday, May 15
This musical term refers to a dance from southern Italy. The word derives from the mistaken belief that one could cure the bite of a certain spider by dancing this dance. What is the term?
Answer: The tarantella.
Wednesday, May 14
The German conductor Otto Klemperer was born on this date in 1885 in Breslau which is now part of Poland. Klemperer’s career was a difficult one for many reasons including political differences and health problems. But his career was revived in the 1950s when Walter Legge began a series of recordings for EMI with Klemperer conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra. Otto Klemperer’s son was an actor known best for a role in an American sitcom. Who was his son and what was the role?
Answer: Werner Klemperer, a distinguished actor, is best-remembered for the role of Col. Klink in Hogan’s Heroes.
Tuesday, May 13
Sir Arthur Sullivan was born on this date in 1842. We just hear some of his concert music and an excerpt from a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta. During his lifetime, Sir Arthur was also known as the composer of a popular hymn. Officially, the hymn-tune is known as St. Gertrude but it’s most often sung to lyrics by Sabine Baring-Gould. What is the name of this Victorian Era hymn?
Answer: Onward, Christian Soldiers.
Monday, May 12
Today is the anniversary of the coronation of King George VI at Westminster Abbey—May 12, 1937. Who wrote the coronation march and what is its title?
Answer: William Walton: Crown Imperial.
Friday, May 9
The beloved Italian conductor Carlo Maria Giulini was born 100 years ago today. He studied violin, viola, and conducting at the Santa Cecilia National Academy in Rome. He won a conducting competition at age 18 but was drafted into the Italian army. After WWII he began his long career conducting the great orchestras and in the great opera houses of the world. In 1955 he had made his American debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, leading to a 23-year association including a period as Principal Guest Conductor. He continued to appear with the CSO until 1978 when he became Music Director of what major orchestra?
Answer: Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Thursday, May 8
Louis Moreau Gottschalk was born on this date in 1829. The son of a London businessman and a Creole mother, Gottschalk is best-remembered as a composer and a virtuoso pianist. At age 13 he went to Europe to study but was turned down by the Paris Conservatory because of his nationality. He spent most of the rest of his short life in Central America and South America and died in Rio de Janeiro at the age of 40. Gottschalk re-used one of his early piano pieces, Bamboula, in his Symphony #1. What is the sub-title of his first symphony?
Answer: A Night in the Tropics.
Wednesday, May 7
Johannes Brahms and Piotr Illyich Tchaikovsky—those twin pillars of romanticism—were both born on May 7—Brahms in 1833, Tchaikovsky in 1840. Brahms specialized in symphonic, choral, and piano music. Tchaikovsky in symphonic, ballet, and opera. All of their symphonies are in the standard repertoire. Together, how many completed symphonies did they compose?
Answer: 10-- 4 by Brahms, 6 by Tchaikovsky.
Tuesday, May 6
Today’s quiz is a Mozart Math problem! Ready? Start with the number of Mozart symphonies…subtract the number of piano concertos…add the number of violin concertos…and subtract the number of da Ponte operas. What is the answer?
Answer: 16. 41-27+5-3=16.
Monday, May 5
Who am I? I was born on this date in 1915. I was an Academy Award-winning actor, director, writer, and producer. I was known not only for films, but for my work on radio, the stage, and even television. In a 2002 British Film Institute poll, I was chosen the greatest film director of all-time. I was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Who am I?
Answer: Orson Welles.
Friday, May 2
Serge Prokofiev was commissioned by the Central Children’s theatre in Moscow to compose a musical symphony for children. He wrote the story and the music for Peter and the Wolf in just four days. The premiere was on this date in 1936. Which character is depicted by the horn section?
Answer: The wolf.
Thursday, May 1
Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro had its premiere on this date in 1786 in Vienna. In Act II of Figaro, the Count Almaviva—who usually address the Countess with very formal manners—calls her by her given name. What is the Countess Almaviva’s first name?
Answer: Rosina, as we know from The Barber of Seville.